In its annual report that details the working conditions at subcontractors, the California company has acknowledged that 137 workers at a plant of the Wintek company were poisoned as a result of exposure to the chemical n-hexane, which was used to clean the touch screen.
The contractor claims that Taiwan used this solvent for two years because it evaporates faster than alcohol, speeding the production of screens.
Workers have complained of numbness, weakness and headaches. Some employees have had difficulty climbing stairs or doing simple things, such as attaching buttons.
“We required Wintek to stop using n-hexane and to provide evidence that they had removed the chemical from their production lines,” Apple wrote in the report. The California company had also asked Wintek to ensure better aeration of its Chinese factory.
The New York Times said they interviewed a dozen employees affected by the product who never heard back from Apple. Wintek is said to have asked them to resign and accept an amount of money, releasing them from any possible prosecution.
Wintek denies these charges.
This story resembles the suicides in recent years at Foxconn, another Chinese subcontractor of Apple. A total of 13 employees committed suicide because of difficult working conditions.
In its report released last week, Apple said they were “disturbed and deeply saddened” by the deaths and assured that experts in suicide prevention have been hired by Foxconn to improve working conditions.